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Malik (3/05/07)  

I spent most of the weekend getting back in touch with my geek roots. It felt good. I played a bunch of FF6 Advance for the majority of Sunday. It's nice to have these nostalgic trips back to a game that I can always count on to be fun and good. That's the opposite of many modern RPGs, like Rogue Galaxy in particular, that look really good, but run out of gas about half way through the game. I honestly don't know if I'll ever finish that game.

RG did give me about 35 hours of fun. However, it's one of those games that I just find myself not interested in playing anymore. I did enjoy it. I do want to know how the (bad) plot ends. I want to see some more special abilities unlocked on the Revelation Board (how you unlock new abilities). I just don't want to play anymore. I'm not bitter or frustrated...I'm just done.

I also was finally able to play some Civ 4 Warlords. I never played the expansion (money seemed to find other worthy causes in my life) until Saturday. Luckily, I not only played Warlords, but I did it the right way; in a spur-of-the-moment LAN party. Nothing like just getting a Civ4 game going with no warning and no expectations to round out a Saturday night. Sadly, I wasn't able to see the game through to it's end, but it was a blast being able to mess with some different civilizations while seeing some of the new content.

It's also good to see that the memory upgrade I did a week ago for my laptop could get me from crawling through Civ4 to being in a position to do a mini-LAN party on a huge world. I knew the upgrade could keep me running smoothly in single player, but to have it work in multiplayer is what really matters.

Anyway, I rounded things out on Sunday night with a bit of the good old D&D action. I held what's becoming my regular Sunday night game, and I think we all had a good time...despite my brain being low on fuel after a late night of Civ4 the night before.

I don't really have much else to say today. It's been a fast last few days, but with nothing really important. However, that's how a good geek inspired weekend should be; fast, busy, filled with many gaming options, and nothing important to say when it's all said and done. So, I'll part ways about here, but with one final thought;

I saw Zodiak on Saturday, and it's one hell of an amazing movie. Zodiak is the type of movie that should be shown at another time of year...not during the crap-fest that is January through March.


Malik (3/07/07)  

No post yesterday since I am seeing the real joys recently of being one of the only two people to work in a lab that had about 8 people only 9 months ago. Sometimes you get the bear, and sometimes the bear kills you then he skull f#@$s your sorry ass.

Anyway, a new take is coming along on why Kutaragi was demoted (or as Sony says, "given a new role") from being such an important person in Sony's gaming division. Namely, he not only was lying to the public, but worse yet, her was not giving information to other Sony executives. In particular, Howard Stringer (a CEO within Sony) was not getting any information about the PS3 from Kutaragi.

What was Stringer honestly expecting. Kutaragi is well known outside of Sony as being one of the least cooperative people in the gaming world. He would tell one thing, deliver another, and then lie about the first thought ever being mentioned. It's like catching a little kid in a bad lie. He could not even properly cover his ass when he f#@$ed up so spectacularly. That, in fact, should be Business 101 ("How to Cover One's Ass").

Anyway, this won't really solve anything for the people outside of Sony. They may be taking a stand against internal information breakdowns, but they won't give a rat's ass about it happening outside of the company. In fact, Sony will continue, for a long time, to not tell the whole story and to try to cover the truth and lies with weird imagined concepts as long as they have the power to continue to make money.

Anyway, I'm in a bit of a bad mood since I'm overworked, overly tired, and I missed out on a bright and sunny day yesterday (a rarity for Seattle in the Winter) and am now being treated to cold and rain again.

However, there can always be a brighter side of things. For example, Harmonix could be back into the swing of things while working on what could be their "most ambitious" project to date. It's pretty much unknown what this project will be like, what system it will be on, or anything else. However, given Harmonix's track record of making rhythm games that appeal to a mass audience, it's pretty assured that it will be damned good.

It can also be assured that the game will definitely give some competition to Activision, Neversoft, and Red Octane. Considering how Activision is now having Neversoft develop future Guitar Hero games, I'm betting the quality will suffer. So, when the future Harmonix project comes around, I'm willing to bet that it will smoke anything that the once proud (and now DOA) Neversoft could crank out.


Malik (3/08/07)  

Last night I learned something rather interesting. I was invited to do a Microsoft game test. Basically, for those who don't know these events, you're invited in (if you're gaming habits match what they need) to participate in a game test. You sit around playing a game for an hour or so, while recording some observations. Then you sit in a room with the other testers and discuss some thoughts on the game in a panel discussion type of setup.

Overall, the whole game testing thing is pretty fun to be a part of, and it lets you sometimes get some insight, prior to launch, of if you'd even consider a game. If it wasn't for one of these, I would have never known about how much fun Crimson Skies was and I would have ignored that game.

What I learned last night is that they sometimes overbook these things. Which means that some sorry people go home early. What I didn't know, until I was told I was one who would have to leave, is that I still get my gratuity and I would be on a higher priority to come back in (to earn another gratuity). Not a bad deal.

As for the gratuity side of things; you are allowed to pick one piece of software for the PC, XBox, or XBox 360 that's on a list of gratuity items. This can range from small things (like games no longer considered worthy of retail) to components of Microsoft Office and full installs of Windows XP Professional.

In a nutshell, I came in, played some FFVI Advance on my DS. Then I went into a room to watch some Simpsons (while everyone finished they paperwork, etc). After about 15 minutes of watching TV (like I probably would've been doing at home anyway), I was told I (along with a few other people) would not be participating and got Crackdown. It took about the same total time as if I drove to Fry's to buy the game, but without me actually paying a dime. Not a bad way to get a game.

I normally wouldn't have considered buying Crackdown. It just sounds like too short of a game for me. However, that all changes when the game is given for free. I now have a free copy of Crackdown, I'm on high priority to earn another gratuity (maybe Gears of War, if I'm so inclined), and I basically wasted no more time than I would have if I bought the game from the closest reliable retailer (Fry's). That's what I call a win-win situation.

The only real sad part of this whole "rejection" was that I think I was going to test a particular game that a friend of mine is working on. It would have been pretty cool to have seen the work he's been doing ahead of time...and to form some thoughts on the game's worth in my gaming library. Also, it's a game that I personally think is a travesty to the franchise it's tied into, so I could have found (my hope) that the game sucks balls and I would feel affirmed in my thoughts that some (read: all) licenses need to be handled correctly and not just in whatever way sounds like an easy way to make money. Afterall, not every game can be the next Counter Strike (not in how CS uses a license incorrectly, but in how this certain game tries to fit a square peg into a CS shaped slot).

On the bright side, the time I had freed up because of this was well used in teaching the Mongolians, ala Civ 4, to not demand things that they are not willing to regret. I love that game...nothing like Genghis Kahn demanding the alphabet, being rejected, declaring war, and my French troops teaching him the magical nature of gunpowder...hehehe.


Malik (3/09/07)  

A lot of interesting stuff is being revealed at the GDC. There's the new PS3 avatar system (which sounds like a blending of Microsoft's Achievements and Nintendo's Mii concept...but let's just face it, that Sony likes to imitate), Microsoft unleashing many new game news type of things via Molyneaux and his Fable 2 ideas, there's the gag order on Nintendo from speaking about anything exciting (due to a stock freeze situation for Nintendo) which only resulted in the idea of a new Mii channel that's basically an over glorified popularity contest/beauty pageant for Miis, and plenty of other tidbits.

However, I think the two biggest, or at least the most entertaining bits, came in regards to Nintendo...despite their gag order.

Of particular note, I loved the talk by Miyamoto. It's not every day we have a situation that gag's Nintendo's hype machine in a way that we are "forced" to listen to the actual processes of the master's mind. This was a unique talk in that we got to not only better understand Miyamoto, but we could also understand that he too has had a fair share of failures along the way.

He had the Mii concept of a visual customizable avatar in the works since the SNES days, but he simply was reaching too high and could not find a way to actually make it a part of something bigger. In fact, despite him working on it for more than a decade, it wasn't until another group started their work on the Mii system that he was able to do anything constructive. I think it's great to see this more humbled and real side of the man whom so many gamers look at as the definition of perfection.

Also, seeing Miyamoto's way of testing games out for casual gamers was great. The "Wife-o-meter" is a great idea. I think that Miyamoto did a brilliant job in explaining the idea way to find how to bring in a casual gamer; find a person in your own life who doesn't play many games and then try to convert them through nothing more than the product itself. This is a great example of why Nintendo is bringing in so many casual gamers and convincing them to buy a Wii while the competition is trying the same old moves (like the 360 having the same damned casual games one could find on any Internet gaming site). It all comes down to being different, but still really testing ideas on a target close enough to assess without coercion.

On a related Nitendo note, Eiji Aonuma, had some interesting insights into Zelda in a talk he gave. The one thing I found really interesting about this is that Wind Waker nearly was the death of Zelda. It's a great joke to say that, but to accept that it was also reality is another thing. Between the slump of the game industry in Japan and the way that North American audiences (particularly teens) were turned off by the visuals, the end may have been in sight.

It's also interesting that they were considering making first person fight scenes in Twilight Princess. Not only that, but the primary reason that the Wii version was mirrored (to give Link a right handed attack) was because it felt weird in a first person mode. Well, it's nice to see a deeper reason behind the mirrored world, considering swinging the wrong hand on Twilight Princess doesn't seem so bad with a third person battle perspective. However, it's even nicer to see that while first person was considered, Nintendo wised up and dropped what would have been the end of the Zelda franchise (sorry, but first person in Zelda is like making a pencil and paper RPG into a first person shooter...and yes, I'm waiting to see how much I hate Shadowrun upon it's release).

However, the other Nintendo related thing that I found really entertaining were the words chosen by Chris Hecker when he apologized for talking "shit" about Nintendo. First off, to quote Sawyer on this weeks Lost; "Who the hell are you?" I think that was the thoughts of many Wii lovers around the world. Hecker is someone that has had a big impact on the gaming industry in the same way that a manager has a big impact on professional wrestling (not counting Paul Barer...forgive that bad spelling).

Actually, Hecker is the same dumbass who won an award (who knows why?) at the 2006 GDC and gave the famous ranting speech about how privileged we are to live in a gaming world. This is someone with an ego about as large as it gets. For doing so damned little for the gaming world, he seems to think he's way too important. Let's face it, if Hecker was never in the gaming world, we would be at the same point we are today. Another Hecker would have appeared to fill the role. It's not like Miyamoto, Molyneaux, Warren Spector, Will Wright, Sid Meyer, or Yu Suzuki. If they were not ever in the gaming world, we would be in a different world than what we love and know.

However, my favorite part of this is that Hecker seemed to think he "was trying to be thought provoking and entertaining and fun"! How is saying that the "Wii is a piece of shit", and demanding that Nintendo makes "a console that doesn't suck ass" supposed to be anything more than the mindless ramblings of a complete lunatic. How is saying the Wii is nothing more than two Gamecubes duct taped together being thought provoking. If this is entertaining, fun, or thought provoking, then all of the fan boys on the message boards must be f$#@ing geniuses! No, Heck was simply being a fanboy of the worst type; one who works in the industry, and thus has a voice. He even claimed that his rant "went too far over the top on the entertaining and fun side". No. Fanboys and obvious flame wars are never entertaining and fun...this is just pathetic bullshit and it makes me feel sad for Will Wright to have this liability on his Spore team.

However, the best thing Hecker said was how the Wii can only make fun games but not artistic ones. First of all, I'd take fun over art any day of the week. Afterall, isn't the point of a "game" to be fun? I think so. Secondly, I believe that there is a difference between a game and a peice of art. While they can overlap, a game cannot exist without the fun factor (or, by the modern definition of video games, it would be a failure). Most of all, I'd like to say that the single most artistic game I've ever played (which was also one of the most fun and enjoyable) was Okami. Okami was not only beautiful, but it was made on the PS2...a system with an inferior technology set when compared to the Wii. In a nutshell, art and fun can coexist and art and Wii can coexist.

The only thing that should not coexist in the gaming world is fanboys and industry jobs. You put those two things together, and you have a mindless egomaniac who has accomplished next to nothing substantial and groundbreaking, but thinks his mindless rants at each GDC (at least since 2006) are gospel. I honestly don't care what one mindless lunatic calls the Wii (since I love it...just like I love all of the systems, in one way or another...except for the 1080i/480p/480i hating $600 piece of shit without a game known as the least for now) since the numbers and the converted casual gamers speak volumes. In fact, I think any system that could get my own father, a non-gamers since the Intellivision days (not counting Elf Bowling...sigh), to buy it and to be part of my conversations with him is one hell of an awesome "piece of shit".

The Wii may not give Hecker the same next-gen ideas he had in mind...but then again, I don't get that feeling from the 360 or the PS3. "Next-gen", as I said before, is not a term that really has the same meaning it once did. I think the only real "next-gen" vibes we'll feel anymore are from new concepts (like the Wiimote controller concept), and not just from pushing the speeds and abilities of CPUs and video chips. That ended with the PS2/XBox/GCN generation. If you want to feel like something is "next-gen" then it will come from only one of two real things...the involving of new technology that is novel to the game world...or the feeling of paying between $250 to possibly even $1000 in the future for a new console. That's what I sadly call "next-gen".


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